FEATURE THELMA & LOUISE
aiming for the piece’s conceptual heart, ‘which probably would not have happened, if the whole chain of events started off by the attempted rape and the shooting hadn’t acted as a catalyst. The seesaw point is
; where Louise is given a chance to get off the hook by the cop Slocumbe, but Thelma
hangs up for her. Thelma has a key line where she says “Something’s crossed over in me and I can’t go back”. Meaning that the
‘ alternatives to surrendering to the police
and returning to society are simply untenable.’
Certainly the film’s ability to retain a lightness of tone and the winning performances of Geena Davis (who gains a new spirit when released from the yoke of her boorish hubby) and Susan Sarandon (older, wiser, a little more fatalistic), do
, much to affirm the sense of exhilaration . experienced by the women as their flight takes them further along the open road.
Settling back into their open topped ’66
; Thunderbird, they carve their way through the miles and menfolk ofthe American
heartland — making such an impact Stateside that lorry drivers are becoming hesitant about overtaking a car with a woman behind the wheel.
Without giving too much away, Scott sees the ending as ‘a triumph, not a tragedy’, but there is a sense in which, for their sins, Thelma & Louise are simply edged out. ‘I think they make the choice of being edged
out,’ Scott explains. ‘At the first hotel stop, Thelma suggests that they ought to tell the police, tell them everything, tell them that he was trying to hurt her. But the response is clear from Louise that life simply isn’t like that, we don’t live in that kind of a world. They can’t go to the police because this was a situation where Thelma was at one point seen to be enjoying herself with the guy.’
‘Obviously though, one ﬂirtatious note shouldn’t be the reason for a man to walk in there and think that he can do what he wants. Or assume that that’s what’s going to happen, right? Not only that, but if she changes her mind, the guy should still be able to back off. So, like you go through three processes and there still can be no justification for what the guy went on to do. Yet the situation that Thelma put herself into, by popular perception would be such that the law would be about to give her a very hard time.’
It’s an important point. Exposing the notion that the law is ill-equipped to deal with the ramifications of sexual assault, the film’s emotionalsympathies rest on the side of the woman’s right to protect herself (in this case, Louise shooting the rapist in defence of her friend). Establishing early on that going to the police will doubtless result in a jail sentence for Louise (if not the electric chair for murder), and that for Thelma to return to her childishly domineering husband Darryl would in its
10'l'hc List 12—25July 1991
own way be a kind of incarceration, the choice for the pair appears to be that there really is no choice.
You might take this, on the one hand, as a sad indictment of human relationships in our society or, on the other, as a pragmatic verdict on the way we live now. And all points between, I’ll wager. Scott and Callie Khourie’s achievement in Thelma and Louise is that they’ve come up with the material — the woman’s right to choose. the susceptibility ofthe law, the doubtful
compatibility of male/female relationships — 1
presented it in a highly attractive package. but left it to the spectator to draw the significant conclusions. Hence, for example, the myriad of vastly differing critical reactions.
Actually, reading more and more heavy theorising about Thelma & Louise probably makes the movie sound more cerebral and polemical than the filmmakers were aiming for. First and foremost, it’s an accessible mainstream entertainment, but it’s one of those rare releases (Fatal Attraction was another) where the viewer’s own reaction will tell you as much about the current state
of play between men and women as anything ’
= in the film itself.
Thelma & Louise Opens across Scotland on Friday 12 July. See Film listings for details.